Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Kaufmann, Munich

Die Meistersinger at the theatre in which it was premiered, on Wagner’s birthday: an inviting prospect by any standards, still more so given the director, conductor, and cast, still more so given the opportunity to see three different productions within little more than a couple of months).

Janáček, The Makropulos Case, Bavarian State Opera

Opera houses’ neglect of Janáček remains one of the most baffling of the many baffling aspects of the ‘repertoire’. At least three of the composer’s operas would be perfect introductions to the art form: Jenůfa, Katya Kabanova, or The Cunning Little Vixen would surely hook most for life. From the House of the Dead might do likewise for someone of a rather different disposition, sceptical of opera’s claims and conventions.

Il barbiere di Siviglia at Glyndebourne

Director Annabel Arden believes that Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia is ‘all about playfulness, theatricality, light and movement’. It’s certainly ‘about’ those things and they are, as Arden suggests, ‘based in the music’.

Oedipe at Covent Garden

George Enescu’s Oedipe was premiered in Paris 1936 but it has taken 80 years for the opera to reach the stage of Covent Garden. This production by Àlex Ollé (a member of the Catalan theatrical group, La Fura Dels Baus) and Valentina Carrasco, which arrives in London via La Monnaie where it was presented in 2011, was eagerly awaited and did not disappoint.

Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette at Lyric Opera, Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago staged Charles Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette as the last opera in its current subscription season.

L’incoronazione di Poppea, RAO

‘The plot is perhaps the least moral in all opera; wrong triumphs in the name of love and we are not expected to mind.’

Madame Butterfly , ENO

Anthony Minghella’s production of Madame Butterfly for ENO is wearing well. First seen in 2005, it is now being aired for the sixth time and is still, as I observed in 2013, ‘a breath-taking visual banquet’.

Valiant but tentative: La straniera at the Concertgebouw

This concert version of La straniera felt like a compulsory musicology field trip, but it had enough vocal flashes to lobby for more frequent performances of this midway Bellini.

London Festival of Baroque Music 2016: Words with Purcell

As poetry is the harmony of words, so music is that of notes; and as poetry is a rise above prose and oratory, so is music the exaltation of poetry.

The Dark Mirror: Zender’s Winterreise

From experiments with musique concrète in the 1940s, to the Minimalists’ explorations into tape-loop effects in the 1960s, via the appearance of hip-hop in the 1970s and its subsequent influence on electronic dance music in the 1980s, to digital production methods today, ‘sampling’ techniques have been employed by musicians working in genres as diverse as jazz fusion, psychedelic rock and classical music.

Great Scott Wows San Diego

On May 7, 2016, San Diego Opera presented the West Coast premiere of Great Scott, an opera by Terrence McNally and Jake Heggie. McNally’s original libretto pokes fun at everything from football to bel canto period opera. It includes snippets of nineteenth century tunes as well as Heggie's own bel canto writing.

Bellini’s Adelson e Salvini, London

A foiled abduction, a castle-threatening inferno, romantic infatuation, guilt-laden near-suicide, gun-shots and knife-blows: Andrea Leone Tottola’s libretto for Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, certainly does not lack dramatic incident.

Manitoba Opera: Of Mice and Men

Opera as an art form has never shied away from the grittier shadows of life. Nor has Manitoba Opera, with its recent past productions dealing with torture, incest, murder and desperate political prisoners still so tragically relevant today.

The Rose and the Ring

Published in 1855 as an entertainment for his two daughters, William Makepeace Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring is a burlesque fairy-tale whose plot — to the author’s wilful delight, perhaps — defies summation and elucidation.

The Lighthouse at San Francisco’s Opera Parallèle

What more fitting memorial for composer Peter Maxwell Davies (d. 03/14/2016) than a splendid performance of The Lighthouse, the third of his eight works for the stage.

King’s Consort at Wigmore Hall

I suspect that many of those at the Wigmore Hall for The King’s Consort’s performance of the La Senna festeggiante (The Rejoicing Seine) were lured by the cachet of ‘Antonio Vivaldi’ and further enticed by the notion of a lover’s serenade at which the generic term ‘serenata’ seems to hint.

Kathleen Ferrier Awards 2016

Having enjoyed superb singing by a young cast of soloists in Classical Opera’s UK premiere of Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso the previous evening, I was delighted that the 2016 Kathleen Ferrier Awards Final at the Wigmore Hall confirmed the strength and depth of talent possessed by the young singers studying in and emerging from our academies and conservatoires.

Pacific Opera Project Recreates Mozart and Salieri Contest

On February 7, 1786, Emperor Joseph II of Austria had brand new one-act operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri performed in the Schönbrunn Palace’s Orangery.

Powerful chemistry in La Cenerentola in Cologne

Those poor opera lovers in Cologne have a never ending problem with the city’s opera house. Together with the rest of city, the construction of the new opera house is mired in political incompetence.

Tannhäuser: Royal Opera House, London

London remains starved of Wagner. This season, its major companies offer but two works, Tannhäuser from the Royal Opera and Tristan from ENO.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Lianna Haroutounian [http://www.liannaharoutounian.com]
21 Jan 2016

Lianna Haroutounian resplendent in Madama Butterfly at the Concertgebouw

The title role is a deciding factor in Madama Butterfly. Despite a last-minute conductor cancellation, last Saturday’s concert performance at the Concertgebouw was a resounding success, thanks to Lianna Haroutounian’s opulent, heart-stealing Cio-Cio-San.

Lianna Haroutounian resplendent in Madama Butterfly at the Concertgebouw

A review by Jenny Camilleri

Above: Lianna Haroutounian

 

Stepping in for Karel Mark Chichon, who cancelled due to illness, young Italian conductor Pietro Rizzo led the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic in a exciting, if imperfect, performance. It was evident that he had had very little time with the orchestra. The first bars sounded rather scrabbly. There were unsteady woodwind attacks, especially in the wedding scene, and the horn section repeatedly lagged behind in Act III. Mr Rizzo’s signalling to the Netherlands Radio Choir, who ushered in Butterfly with some heavenly sounds, also suffered from their belated acquaintance. The Humming Chorus, sung backstage, was adequate musically but lacked dynamic subtlety. Flaws aside, however, the performance had a pulsating energy and was enriched with carefully crafted details. Mr Rizzo can suspend a phrase in mid-air and then let it glide down as gracefully as the folds of a kimono. He also whipped up some thrilling Puccinian crests, although climaxes were hard-edged and needed more roundness in the brass. Altogether, Mr Rizzo’s was an exciting Concertgebouw debut. It was also his first time conducting in the Netherlands, and hopefully he will return soon. There were excellent contributions from some of the principals, in particular concertmaster Joris van Rijn’s tender solos, Ellen Versney’s softly glittering harp and Paul Jussen’s portentous timpani.

All the soloists sang the music by heart, which is always a boon, and entered and exited in character. Most of the supporting cast ranged from acceptable to competent. As Goro tenor Ho-yoon Chung sang very well indeed, but nothing in his characterisation suggested the marriage-broker’s base, money-grubbing nature. He sounded more like a friendly next-door neighbour. A cut above the rest were bass Miklós Sebestyén as the Bonze and the three Dutch singers playing Kate Pinkerton and Butterfly’s relatives. Mr Sebestyén was vocally commanding in his short scene, storming in to renounce Cio-Cio-San for converting to Christianity. Maria Fiselier, Ruth Willemse and Julia Westendorp were all outstanding.

Tenor Arnold Rutkowski has an attractive lyric voice with an interesting, bittersweet chocolatey timbre. His Pinkerton was young and foolish and completely unaware of the havoc he was wreaking. He was on solid ground as long as he sang mezzo forte or louder. Softer singing resulted in quality loss. Mr Rutkowski is very musical, but more dynamic control would increase his expressive possibilities. He had all the high notes, which he jettisoned with great physical energy, but the dicey trajectory they sometimes took made one wish for more technical grip. Baritone Angelo Veccia was a suave and humane Sharpless. His refined phrasing amply made up for some throatiness, mostly evident in the upper third of the voice. Mr Veccia’s restrained Sharpless found a dramatic foil in Marie-Nicole Lemieux, who brought her potent dramatic presence to Suzuki. The extremes of her acerbic top and plunging contralto made Butterfly’s maid and companion both fierce-tempered and fiercely maternal. The orchestra was often a little too loud—a common issue at the Concertgebouw, where sound carries further than some conductors realise—but Ms Lemieux could easily counter the volume.

So could Lianna Haroutounian, who gave a world-class performance as the abandoned teenage bride. Her Butterfly was trusting but dignified, and devoid of simpering silliness. With its rich, silk-wrapped vibrato, even focus from top to bottom, and that ductile quality Italians call morbidezza (softness), Ms Haroutounian’s voice is ideal for the young heroine. And she is a true spinto soprano, with enough power and stamina to tackle the onerous third act. Her full top notes are confident and lustrous. She did not take the high D flat at the end of the entrance aria, but the composer-sanctioned lower alternative, and quite beautifully too. “Un bel dì vedremo” (One fine day) was vocal perfection. She effectively built up the tension during Butterfly’s imagined reunion with Pinkerton and ended the aria in a stunning high B flat. Visibly emotional in the suicide scene, she veered a little sharp in “Tu, tu, piccolo iddio” (You, you, my little god). Halfway through, she refocused her voice and sailed through to a secure finale. Unsurprisingly, the hall gave her a clamorous ovation. San Francisco Opera has already announced that Ms Haroutounian will be their Butterfly next season. No doubt she will be invited to sing this role at several other houses. As many Puccini fans as possible need to hear her in it. In fact, opera fans of all types need to hear Ms Haroutounian, in any of her roles—hers is one of the major voices of our time.

Jenny Camilleri


Cast and production information:

Cio-Cio-San — Lianna Haroutounian, Suzuki — Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Arnold Rutkowski — Pinkerton, Sharpless — Angelo Veccia, Goro — Ho-yoon Chung, Prince Yamadori— Yujoong Kim, The Bonze— Miklós Sebestyén, Yakusidé — Hee-Saup Yoon, The Imperial Commissioner — Enseok Choi, The Official Registrar — Kyung-Il Ko, Cio-Cio-San’s Mother — Ruth Willemse, Kate Pinkerton/Aunt — Maria Fiselier, Niece — Julia Westendorp, Conductor — Pietro Rizzo, Netherlands Radio Choir, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic. Heard at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam on Saturday, 16th January, 2016.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):